Dude Looks Like a Lady… in Haute Couture.
by James Tuttle @TuttleMode
I’m glad you’re joining us. It means that your eyes didn’t drop out of your head after witnessing the forty-eight hours of glittery fabulousness of the RuPaul’s Drag Race marathon over the weekend. In anticipation of the show’s fourth season premiere, we got more sequins, wigs, feathers and size-fourteen hooker heels than we’ll ever need to see again. Ever.
Among the new crop of queens that we got to meet on Monday night there were some familiar archetypes like the bitchy, scarcastic Willam and the black divas Milan and Alisa Summers. We also have the comic plus-sized Jiggly Caliente, the broke down Dida Ritz, and a couple of Puerto Ricans are always cast because they’re kind of crazy and have funny accents. But what the fuck is up with these lame drag names? Some of my dearest friends are quite famous female impersonators with wonderfully creative monikers like Holly Woodlawn and Bridget of Madison County. The only cool name out of this bunch belongs to Sharon Needles but it seems a little too close to home for the rough whack-job that owns it, so I can’t really get on board.
The first challenge of the season was a photo shoot with everyone’s favorite hunky gay photographer Mike Ruiz. This involved spinning each contestant around on a turntable in a white dress while two hot guys in Speedos sprayed paint on them.
While a fun exercise, it was essentially a busted version of the iconic fashion moment when Shalom Harlow, spinning in a suspiciously similar white dress, was sprayed by ominous robots as the finale of the Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 1999 show. At least I was reminded that neon green and orange haven’t gone together since the Eighties, and learned that drag queens and stiff A-line baby-doll frocks don’t compliment each other, either.
This challenge caused me to ponder how fledgling competition shows will often increase their production values and find larger budgets for sets and lighting as they become more successful. I’m happy to say that this is not the case with RuPaul’s Drag Race, which revels in a world of glue guns, fake hair and make-it-work moments. I was worried for a quick second because the segment of zombie drag queens roaming a tacky motel seemed pretty “high concept” for this series but, when I realized it was just a bunch of drag queens roaming a tacky motel with a yellow filter on the lens, I decided to let it slide.
On the runway, Sharon Needles killed it with a post-apocalyptic scare-drag ensemble that was shocking even before the disgusting fake blood poured out of her mouth. You have to give the bitch props for being committed, though she should probably also be committed.
Jiggly Caliente and Alisa Summers landed rightly in the bottom and, when the time came for them to Lip-Synch-for-their-Lives to Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” Jiggly pulled out all the stops while Alisa strutted coolly back and forth. I have to agree with Milan, who commented from the sidelines “Girl, this is called Drag Race, not drag walk.” Bye, bye Alisa!
So, all the talk about the drag queens’ “couture” on Ru’s judging panel was completely out of place in discussing taped-together frocks and fake boobies but it did remind me that Spring 2012 Haute Couture Week recently wrapped up. Atelier Versace kicked off day one with it’s first showing in Paris since 2004. Models slinked up the golden staircase in exquisitely futuristic gold, lime and orange gowns of lace and beading until they were all standing up there like those girls with the briefcases on the game show Deal or No Deal. The styling was sleek and the gowns hugged the body with miniskirts or sky-high slits that are red carpet-ready.
Christian Dior Haute Couture showed in the evening with a look back into vintage Dior territory that was beautiful but a tad boring. The transparency of the clothes that revealed the construction was the only news here. Maybe the ridiculous choreography that required models to fumble their way down a steep staircase then vamp it up around the salon like drag divas from RuPaul’s show was an attempt to add freshness to lovely clothes we’ve already seen but the Grace Kelly styling was the star here.
Tuesday brought the highly anticipated Chanel Couture show set in an amazing re-creation of a jet interior. As shift dress after shift dress came down the runway, I began to wonder if this was Lagerfeld’s idea of what flight attendants should be wearing. Everything was in cool shades of blue from pale to indigo and navy and the work was exquisite but the proportions weren’t pretty or flattering. I think that Flight Chanel 2012 should probably have been grounded.
Blues made way for greens, from emerald to chartreuse, at Armani Privé in the afternoon. The collection had a futuristic Indian vibe with tons of beautiful beadwork and textures that were inspired by the reptile world. The little corkscrew hats by Philip Treacy were a fun touch but I doubt you’ll be seeing them around much.
Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy Couture presentation creeped me out at first, with black liquid-crystal gowns topped with rough crocodile swallow-tailed jackets that would be right at home on Game of Thrones. When the first few looks gave way to a delicate white dress that belongs on a medieval angel, I was suddenly enchanted. Of course, I’d have still left off the elaborate nose-rings but that’s the Givenchy thing this season.
The next day welcomed the sorbet colors of Elie Saab Couture and a collection of light, lacy dresses where even the beads seemed to float. The colors were presented in blocks—from white to pale green to pale peach to champagne and so on—so you got the impression that you were being led through a lovely pastel universe that was never too sweet even if it was based on the idea of fairytale heroines. Get ready to see some of these gowns again at the Kodak Theatre in a few weeks.
The shows ended on a high note Wednesday night with Valentino Couture’s shimmering collection of sheers, taffetas, delicate florals and traditional toile prints. Necks were high and everything had long sleeves but it never felt too covered or heavy. An early Seventies take on the Victorian Age became more and more apparent toward the end and made me think of the original Dark Shadows series, though I’m pretty sure that “schlocky supernatural” wasn’t the impression the designers were going for. The pale loafers were an excellent touch to this amazing collection and, Dark Shadows references aside, I heartily recommend giving it a closer look.
As RuPaul would say, “Can I get an Amen up in here?”